Best Airline-Approved Pet Carriers For In-Cabin & Cargo Use

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cute small dog in his travel cage ready to get on board the airplane at the airport (Caption: Best Airline-Approved Pet Carriers)

Flying with your dog can be a nerve-wracking experience for both of you. To make the journey more enjoyable, a comfortable airline-approved pet carrier is a must. We’ve done our research to help you find your best options among the dozens upon dozens of pet carriers on the market.

At A Glance: Our Top Picks

OverallBudgetWith WheelsBackpackExpandableLarge Dogs
Sherpa pet carrierProdigen pet carrierKopeks pet carrierPetAmi pet carrierPetsfit pet carrierPetmate pet carrier
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Best Airline-Approved Pet Carriers

We’ve chosen our top picks for airline pet carriers based on several factors, including quality and durability, good ventilation and other pet comfort features, safety features, carrying ease, pricing, customer feedback, and more.

All of the products we review here are for in-cabin use, except for our top pick for the cargo area for large dogs. All carriers must be small enough to fit completely (and comfortably) in the seat in front of you with plenty of ventilation for your pet (without them remaining inside and closed at all times).

Airline-Approved Pet Carrier Sizes

As of Summer 2022, here are the reccomended size requirements for the top 4 major U.S. Airlines:

  • American Airlines: 18″ L x 11″ W x11″ H (soft-sided) and 19″ L x 13″ W x 9″ (hard-sided)
  • Delta: 18″ L x 11″ W x 11″ H (soft-sided) – varies depending on underseat dimensions for hard-sided
  • United: 18″ L x 11″ W x11″ H (soft-sided) and 17.5″ L x 12″ W x 7.5″ (hard-sided)
  • Southwest: 18.5″ L x 13.5″ W 8.5″ H

Always check with your airline about their current requirements and restrictions when flying with pets. We’ve found that policies can change fairly frequently, so it’s best to verify your airline’s most current regulations. The carrier size can also vary by aircraft and destination.

Best Overall: Sherpa Original Deluxe Pet Carrier Review

Sherpa pet carrier

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This Sherpa dog carrier for a plane is one of the most popular in-cabin airline-approved dog carriers for its fantastic features, reasonable price, and the company’s unique Guaranteed On-Board program. With this program, which partners with airlines such as American, Delta, United, and Southwest, you’ll be reimbursed for your flight cost and pet fees if you’re not allowed to board due to a carrier issue (this applies to the small and medium-sized Sherpa carriers only).

It features mesh panels for excellent ventilation, a faux lambskin liner for comfort, locking zippers, and a spring wire frame you can compress to fit under airplane seats. You can carry it with the adjustable non-slip shoulder strap or padded handles or attach it to your rolling luggage. It also has a storage pocket for your pup’s leash, treats, etc.

Sizing

  • Small: Fits pets up to 13″L x 7.5″H; up to 8 pounds
  • Medium: Fits pets up to 16″L x 10″H; up to 16 pounds
  • Large: Fits pets up to 18″L x 11″H; up to 22 pounds
ProsCons
Guaranteed on-board program for small and medium sizesSome complaints of the zipper breaking and that the mesh sides aren’t very sturdy
Comfortable and well-ventilatedA few customers say the sizes run very small
Safety belt attaches to luggage handle
Lightweight
Liner is machine-washable
Available in 3 sizes and 3 colors

Price

  • Starts at $37.80

Best Budget: Prodigen Pet Carrier Review

Prodigen pet carrier

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We think Prodigen’s soft-sided, airline-approved pet carrier is your most affordable option for the level of quality and features you get. This bag is comfortable for pups, with plenty of ventilation and fleece-lined bedding. It’s also easy to carry using the padded handles or shoulder strap.

The mesh panels are scratch-resistant, and all the zippers are self-locking to prevent escapes. It also has a handy zippered storage pocket. Customers confirm that the medium size is approved for most major airlines.

Sizing

  • Medium: 17.2″L x 10″W x 11″H; up to 14 pounds
  • Large: 20.5″L x 10″W x 13.5″H; up to 25 pounds
ProsCons
Excellent fit under forward airline seatsSeveral complaints that it has a strong chemical odor
Well-ventilated on all sides and topA few customers report that the medium size is a very tight fit for dogs over 10 pounds
3 doors for easy pet accessLiner isn’t machine-washable
Lightweight but sturdy construction
Available in 2 sizes and 6 colors (large size isn’t airline-approved for under seat)

Price

Best With Wheels: KOPEKS Deluxe Backpack Pet Travel Carrier Review

Kopeks pet carrier

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If you have a bad back or just want to stroll through the airport with ease, we recommend KOPEKS as the best airline-approved pet carrier with wheels. This combination backpack/carrier with wheels is made with durable 600D Oxford fabric and has sturdy double wheels and three mesh panels for good ventilation and visibility. It’s also well-padded for comfort and has two zippered pockets to store your pup’s leash, toys, and treats.

Sizing

  • Small/Med: 13″L x 12″W x 20″H; up to 10 pounds
  • Large: 13″L x 17.5″W x 20″H; up to 18 pounds
ProsCons
High-quality constructionMedium size may be a tight fit for dogs over 10 pounds
Multiple ways to carry
Good ventilation
Available in 2 sizes and 3 colors (large isn’t airline-approved for under seat)

Price

Best Backpack: PetAmi Deluxe Pet Carrier Backpack Review

PetAmi pet carrier

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If you have a small dog or cat and want to keep your hands free for your carry-on or luggage, this PetAmi backpack pet carrier is an excellent choice. It’s well-ventilated and designed with sturdy material that won’t collapse on your pet. It also has sherpa-lined bedding for comfort, two-way entry for easy access, and a zippered storage pouch. For your comfort and support, the back and shoulder straps have extra-thick padding, and it also has waist and chest buckles.

Sizing

  • One size: 12.5″L x 10.2″W x 16.3″H; up to 18 pounds
ProsCons
Great fit under the seatSome complaints that it’s heavy and cuts into the lower back
Sturdy frame A few customers report that it runs small
Well-ventilatedLiner isn’t machine-washable
Padded shoulder straps and chest and waist belts
Available in 9 colors

Price

Best Expandable: Petsfit Expandable Pet Carrier Review

Petsfit pet carrier

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If you want to give your pup a bit more room to stretch out in the airport or during your flight, this Petsfit Expandable Pet Carrier is a must. Its wire frame and durable oxford cloth material keep it from collapsing, but it compresses well under the seat. It features anti-scratch mesh ventilation, two-way access, cozy padding, self-locking zippers, and a storage pocket. You can attach it to your rolling luggage or use the hand or shoulder straps.

According to customers, the small and medium sizes are airline-approved, but the large may be too high to meet some airlines’ requirements. However, Petsfit says you can remove two detachable fiber optic rods at the top to decrease the bag’s height.

Sizing

  • Small: 16”L x 10”W x 9”H; up to 7 pounds
  • Medium: 18”L x 11”W x 11”H; up to 13 pounds
  • Large: 19”L x 12”W x 12”H; up to 18 pounds
ProsCons
Easily expandable to give your pup more roomNot as much ventilation as other carriers we review here (when not expanded)
Wire frame helps keep its shapeA few complaints about stitching coming undone and zippers breaking
Can attach bag to luggage handle
Available in 3 sizes

Price

Best For Large Dogs: Petmate Sky Kennel Pet Carrier Review

Petmate pet carrier

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This Petmate airline-approved pet carrier for large and extra-large dogs meets the requirements for pets flying in the cargo area — although some airlines may require extra metal bolts, which Petmate sells separately in its travel kit. With heavy-duty, durable construction, this TSA-approved pet carrier will keep your pup safe and comfortable.

It’s ventilated on all sides and comes with a clip-on food and water bowl, two “Live Animal” stickers, and pet ID stickers. It also has convenient pre-drilled zip tie holes (airlines require you to zip tie the kennel door shut). Just be sure to check with your airline about the size and weight restrictions when flying with larger dogs.

Sizing

ProsCons
Heavy-duty constructionMetal bolts, zip ties, and pet bed sold separately
4-way vault door for extra securitySome reports that the kennel sizing is off
Includes clip-on food and water bowls
Available in 6 sizes
Made in the USA

Price

How Should I Prepare To Fly With My Pup?

Being prepared well ahead of time for your big travel day is key to a better experience. And there are many things you can do to get you and your dog ready for air travel — and traveling with your pup in general. We’ve got a ton of helpful tips on traveling with your pet before, during, and after your journey. Here’s a quick video to jump-start your to-do list.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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